Photographer and alumnus Jan Staller (class of 1971) returns to Bard College at Simon’s Rock to talk about his photography
career on Wednesday, April 5 at 7:00 p.m. as part of the Uncommon Journeys special
speaker series celebrating the unique paths and extraordinary successes of Simon’s
Rock alumni. A light reception with the artist will follow. In conjunction with the
artist’s talk, Staller will display photographs that span his four-decade long career.
Both events will take place at the Daniel Arts Center. The photography exhibition
will be on view in the Hillman-Jackson Gallery until May 1. The artist’s talk and
exhibition are free and open to the public.
After earning an Associate of Arts from Simon’s Rock and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute, Staller went on to become a celebrated photographer for his study of urban and industrial landscapes. For more than 40 years, Staller’s imagery is less about the intrinsic appeal of the subject and more about the transformative qualities of the medium. Staller has chosen his subjects from things that most of us tend not to observe: recycled scrap, twisted steel, concrete blocks, shipping containers, pipelines, and untrammeled snowdrifts.
Moving to New York City in the mid 1970s Staller approached his immediate surroundings
as a kind of mind travel; going to places at the edge of the city to find his inspiration. By
the following decade his work concentrated on the combination of natural light, street
lights and the effects of weather on his subjects. In the 1990s Staller began to travel
around the world but still found inspiration in every day subjects which he viewed
as ready-made art – framing objects so that they appear in the photographs as objects
resembling sculpture. “Jan takes a seemingly mundane, functional object and transforms
it entirely into an abstract, formal composition” says gallery curator Margaret Cherin,
“these are photographs you can study for a long time, they are akin to reading a poem.”
Staller’s work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Life, Fortune, and Forbes, and projects have included the books Frontier New York and On Planet Earth, as well as film stills from Twelve Monkeys and Fargo.
Staller will stay on the 300-acre Alford road campus for a couple of days, visiting with students and taking a tour of the much expanded buildings and grounds since he graduated in 1972. “We are excited to introduce such a successful artist and his work to our students, it’s so inspirational for them,” says Cherin, “Jan came to Simon’s Rock only four years after it was founded and he said there was some kind of make-shift dark room in a basement, our photography department has come a long way since then!”
The “Uncommon Journeys” speaker series is generously supported by Scott Shenker and Mary Ruth Quinn, P’09 & ‘11.